Met-Chohm-Phuu (Appleseed) Biodiesel in Thailand

Creating Appleseed Biodiesel reactors in Thailand in rural areas for farmers with the PDA.... stories from a farang in Krabi... biodiesel back home in NC... and whatever else needs to be told online in my blog....

July 11, 2006

Human Kindness Foundation Biodiesel

I piggybacked with a friend, Laura Mathys, to visit the Human Kindness Foundation’s biodiesel facilities. Located on a farm in the backcountry of Orange county (as backcountry as Orange

county gets that is), we drove through a small village of enviro-friendly south facing homes (With really large windows to passively heat and light the homes) and came upon our destination: the HKF Biodiesel reactor. The reactor is in a small barn on a hill, with the reactor itself locked inside, the methanol mixing outside under a porch for ventilation, and a big tumorous addition on one side of the barn with oil barrels facing the sun to heat them up.

The barn floor inside was a bit sticky from a oil, and smelled like a big giant frying pan from all the used oils. In one corner is a titration table, lots of lab equipment and a oily computer in the corner with a ‘biodiesel-o-matic’ spreadsheet open and ready for titrating.

We met with the uber friendly Eric (with a parrot on his shoulder), who guided us through the biodiesel production process at HKF. The most important step, titrating, was the first thing we practiced. Titration is used to make sure the chemical reaction to make biodiesel is optimized to get the highest quality fuel from the specific properties of the oil. After the right amounts of catalyst was found, a mini batch was made by tossing methanol, KOH, and oil in the proper amounts into a blender, and then blending for 15 minutes to ensure a proper reaction. If the resulting mix then forms two distinct layers within around 15 minutes (with clear biodiesel on the top and milky glycerin on the bottom), then Bam you’ve got good biodiesel and you can go on with the main reaction.

So boring details on the reactor and whatnot. The reactor was designed with the help of Burlington Biodiesel, TS Design’s Eric Henry and friends (I visited TS Designs a few months later). The methanol is mixed using a showerhead to spray methanol onto KOH powder flakes in a basket, a technique that works quite well. The resulting methoxide is then moved by gravity to slowly drip into the main reactor. The main reactor is a big HDPE cone bottomed tank, and it already has some oil which as heated passively by the sun in it. A pump is turned on which circulates the oil and then the methoxide slowly mixes in with the oil. The reaction is continuously stirred for 8 hours, a long reaction because the oil is not very hot and it takes a long time under cool temperatures for the reaction to occur. In total: 90 gallons oil + 18 gallons of methanol + 3 kg of KOH yields around 80-90 gallons of biodiesel.

Then, the oil sits in the reactor for about a day, and the resulting glycerin byproduct is drained from the bottom, and the oil is sent to an HDPE wash tank. Water is added to fill the tank up, and then the oil is bubbled using an aquarium bubbler to remove the impurities. The water is drained and the process is repeated 2 more times until the resulting biodiesel is a clear amber color. Then you’ve got some quality biodiesel.

I really enjoyed visiting HKF and learned a lot from their process. They’ve been making biodiesel for well over a year no and have had no problems with their biodiesel; they use waste vegetable oil and run biodiesel in all their local vehicles. In the long term the HKF hopes to expand and make a million gallon processor employing ex-convicts in the area as the labor. Ambitious yes, but very possible. More info on HKF and biodiesel can be found online at this lovely article:


Post a Comment

<< Home